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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The extinct Tasmanian tiger lives into a mouse

Researchers from the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Texas, USA, have extracted genes from the extinct Tasmanian tiger (thylacine), inserted it into a mouse and observed a biological function – this is a world first for the use of the DNA of an extinct species to induce a functional response in another living organism.
“This is the first time that DNA from an extinct species has been used to induce a functional response in another living organism,” said Dr Andrew Pask, RD Wright Fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Zoology who led the research.

“As more and more species of animals become extinct, we are continuing to lose critical knowledge of gene function and their potential.”

“Up until now we have only been able to examine gene sequences from extinct animals. This research was developed to go one step further to examine extinct gene function in a whole organism,” he said.

“This research has enormous potential for many applications including the development of new biomedicines and gaining a better understanding of the biology of extinct animals,” said Professor Richard Behringer, Deputy Head of the Department of Molecular Genetics, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, at the University of Texas, who is the corresponding author on the paper.

The last known Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in the Hobart Zoo in 1936. This enigmatic marsupial carnivore was hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1900s.

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